My projects, hobbies, interests, whatever.


Vintage Car Rally

In a real blast from the past. I have had posted on Flickr a set of photos taken by my father in 1957. The quality of the Kodachrome slides is excellent after more than fifty years. These photos were taken at a rally sponsored by the Vintage Motor Car Club of America and the Vintage Sports Car Club of England. These photos are some of my most popular and get regular hits. I received help from many people including both clubs involved in identifying the cars in the photos so many thanks to them.

Hemming’s Classic Car magazine did a short article about the photos in their November (2010) issue which is quite nice. My father would have loved the fact that the photos have gotten the attention they have. I remember a wonderful outing with my father (I was 8 at the time) and always loved to go to car shows. Actually the shows we also went to around that time were the 1957 auto show in Boston and the “HiFi” show. I enjoyed both.

7 - VMCCA Rally, April 1957

Now my father also like fishing. Me, not so much.
The complete set of photos can be found here.


Pomona RV Show

I recently went to the Pomona RV Show. Not that I’m in the market for an RV but more out of curiosity and entertainment and my love of vehicles. RVs cater to my Jules Verne syndrome of wanting to travel and take my home with me. Kind of like “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” or “Steam House”. The design of RVs has always been intriguing to me. How to fit as much living space into a very small area. Home sizes have grown over the years and peoples expectations of what is needed to live in have grown dramatically. The RV technology also spills over to much of the work being done today in tiny house design and modular homes.

Of course some RVS are very over the top. Like the one in the photo below that was created by Dunkel Industries. This is intended to be an off road capable RV that you can live in and will carry a Jeep and a couple of ATVs. This is based on a Ford F650 chassis and, yes, I probably don’t want to know what the gas mileage is. What is interesting is the the interior, which has less room than many RVs, is very cleverly designed and makes efficient use of the space available.

I also wonder how this compares to “expedition vehicles” like Unicats or Earthroamers in its ability to handle very extreme situations.

Pomona RV Show 2009

Another vehicle that I have always like is the Sportsmobile. Again not the best gas mileage but shouldn’t be too bad with a diesel.

Pomona RV Show 2009

But what I really miss is the simplicity of the VW Westphalia or even my poor man’s version in 1972.

Me & Willie setting up camp -- May 1972

…and more photos here

Pen & Ink Without Pen & Ink

I’ve always liked pen and ink illustrations especially of cars. Car magazines like Road & Track always seemed to have some. Now as with most things digital this is quite easy to do on a computer. Starting with a photograph various types and qualities of pen and ink drawings can be simulated.

For example this is a photo of a Lamborghini V12 that was converted to a pen and ink drawing. It took a couple of layers in the Gimp, one line drawing and one black threshold that were combined to produce the final image.

Lamborghini V12

This photo is an Alfa with a Mini in the background done in a similar manner with “simulated” color paper.


Adding some gray levels also gives and interesting result as on this (quite rare) Lotus 6.

Lotus Six

… and engines always look good with this technique. Blown Chevy V8.


OK, so it can be used on something other than cars. Here is the eye of a horse named Nick.

Nick's Eye

Travel Town, Los Angeles, CA

Travel Town is owned by the City of Los Angeles and as they say in their literature it was supposed to be a petting zoo for trains. They have trains, cars and an N scale train layout. It’s a little depressing that many of the locomotives and coaches are in pretty poor condition… …but it’s still a pretty neat museum. There is a really beautiful structure built over some of the trains that is representative of a train station. It offers some great opportunities for over-the-top photography of very impressive machinery. So I took lots of photos and had fun with them.

The complete photoset is here

Travel Town, Griffith Park, L.A.

Travel Town, Griffith Park, L.A.

Travel Town, Griffith Park, L.A.

Travel Town, Griffith Park, L.A.

Travel Town, Griffith Park, L.A.

French Cars

It seems that French cars are usually the butt of jokes at least in the US. None have been sold here for many years. I’ve owned two French cars. A Simca 1204 and a Citroen SM. Saying that a car is French or from any particular country these days is problematic. The Simca was built during the time that Simca was owned by Fiat and then Chrysler (or maybe the other way around, I don’t remember).

I really liked the Simca. It was small (which I still like) and very nice riding and handling on rough roads a definite plus when, at the time, I lived in MA driving pot-holed and frost-heaved roads. It was the US version with 62 HP. When I bought this car the alternator didn’t work and I couldn’t find the French replacement (Paris-Rhone). I replaced it with a Ford alternator and regulator because it was small enough to fit. When I sold it the starter motor was failing which was completely unobtainable in the US (I think it was a Fiat product). I bought this car for $40 and sold it for $400. The only other times I ever sold cars for more then I paid for them was a Citroen SM and a Lotus Europa. Also the paint on this car oxidized very quickly so this photo was taken right after it was polished a couple of months later it would be a dull pinkish red.

my Simca 1204 - picture taken 1975

My Citroen SM was bought as a wreck with fire damage. Again this is not completely French. Most of the car was Citroen parts, but the engine was from Maserati. The engine, drive train and interior were shared with the Maserati Merak. In theory I was going to restore it but only got to the point where the engine was in running condition. I sold this car for a down payment on a new house. Houses were much less expensive then and fancy cars even as wrecks were relatively speaking expensive.

Citroen SM Fire Damage

Citreon SM Engine (Maserati V6)

My First Car

I like vehicles of all kinds. There is probably a listing in DSM-IV for this type of psychological ailment. I remember my first car quite well. I really, really, liked it. It was a Garton Kidillac. This was a pedal car roughly in the style of an early 50s Cadillac and probably as heavy on a scaled basis. Really made of steel. It had a little anemic horn that made this really pathetic moan when the batteries were going dead. I liked that sound so much I wished the batteries would always be half dead. The picture I have included with this was taken less than a couple of hundred feet from the New Haven Shoreline. The was (and still is) the main railroad route from Boston to New York. This probably also influenced my love of vehicles. I still like trains and have a collection of HO trains which incidentally are mostly New Haven RR.

This photo was taken by my father a long, long time ago. The cars in the background give that away. …and he swore by Kodachrome film which means that the photo was still in great condition over 50 years later.


Mountain Bike Conversion

Bicycles are amazingly efficient means of transportation. They are also relatively easy to modify and adapt to an individual’s preferences. I was looking for a touring type of bicycle in order to have something that could negotiate the local mountain fire roads as well as normal roads but not necessarily full off road use. My road bike just wasn’t going to make it off road at all. Touring bikes are difficult to obtain. They’re expensive and relatively rare since there isn’t a very big market for them. So I looked at mountain bikes.

I went through a bicycle frame design book to help figure out exactly what the frame dimensions that fit me the best are and then poured through hundreds of bicycle specs to find the right frame. i.e. a custom bike for no extra charge. The two most promising candidates were a LeMond and a Cannondale frame. The Cannondale M400 (or several other versions) could be bought very inexpensively (about $300) and came in a color I liked and is an incredible light weight frame.

From that starting point I begain to modify it to be more like a road bike but still retain some degree of off road capability. I added dropped handlebars which forces several other changes as well. Like brakes and shifters. The bars are Nitto Radenour bars which due to there shape work a little better when riding off road. The bike now needed new shifters because the mountain bike shifters no longer fit. Because of the oversized downtube of the cannondale neither would downtube shifters so I went to Shimano Barcon shifters. The brakes were V-brakes and (at the time) normal dropped handlebar brake levers would’nt work with them. I found some Diacompe levers that would and upgraded the brakes as well.

After getting all that sorted out I picked up some narrower tires with road tread and put fenders on the bike. Why fenders? Even in SoCal it seems that you’re always riding through water mostly from irrigation of some sort and I hate that stripe down my back. A rear rack, shopping bag panniers and a bag or two and I’m done. Oh, I did change the rear cogs as well to give me some really low gears for the hills around here and to compensate for a leg injury. I have also upgraded the wheels (Mavic rims) and added a Cannondale kickstand.

Latest version

After the morning ride

Modified M400

My road bike just for comparison and whatever…
My Bicycles